ICESat-2 will use six laser beams to measure the height of the ice, as illustrated in this not-to-scale artist rendering.
(Courtesy of NASA)
NASA says that the new $1 billion satellite gives humanity a stronger, data-backup-vision of exactly how fast the Earth’s ice is melting.
The satellite, ICESat-2, which is traveling every 91 days, is the size of a Smart car and send lasers back to Earth countless times to give scientists an accurate measurement down to within a centimeter of the planet of the polar ice caps and how they change, according to the agency.
Scientists will be able to examine how the ice responds to changes in the atmosphere and the ocean, giving them a picture in time of what is making the ice melt or not in certain areas.
Once they collect the data about the thickness of the sea ice and the height of the ice sheets, it will be the height of their future models to better predict potential sea level rise scenarios, NASA says.
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“If the climate by the warming of the earth, we see changes in the sea level, the sea level is rising,” Helen Fricker, a professor of glaciology at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, who worked with NASA on the ICESat-2 project, told WBUR. “But the ultimate thing that we are trying to learn is, how much ice we’re losing, and how quickly will we lose it?”
According to NASA, the melting of the ice in Greenland and Antarctica has increased the global sea level more than a millimeter per year, which is one third of the total increase.
In this artist’s concept of ICESat-2, the satellite’s laser beams are visible as it rotates.
(Courtesy of NASA)
ICESat-2, which was launched on Sept. 15, is capable of much more extensive coverage of ice loss around the world.
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“In the time that it takes for someone to blink, a kind of half a second, ICESat-2 is to collect 5,000 observations in each of the six beams, and it is going to do that, every hour, every day … it is a huge amount of data,” Tom Neumann, NASA deputy project scientist, told the Guardian.
According to Fricker, the first data from ICESat-2 will start to come back in mid-October.
“It’s going to be all hands on deck for a number of months, while we work on these data tell us, and we really have to wait. It is incredibly exciting,” she said.
Christopher Carbone is a reporter and news editor covering science and technology for FoxNews.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @christocarbone.